Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Commuting by Bicycle in Hong Kong

On the way to work.

On the way back to the hotel.

Yesterday I had to adjudicate in Kowloon, which is the area of Hong Kong on the north side of Victoria Harbor.  Instead of taking the subway system, I decided to take my bike.  They allow bicycles on the ferry, and send cyclists to the lower level.  This is not because cyclists are thought of as 'lowly' (at least I don't think) but because the top is usually pretty crowded, and there is more space for the bikes down below.  I was the only person on deck going and coming back.  Getting to the ferry on the Wan Chai side is not a simple matter of just taking a leisurely ride.  In fact, it really involves very little riding, and more just walking the bike across the cement footpaths that go over the streets.  My hotel, the Luk Kwok, is on a major roadway, Gloucester.  There are no crossing streets nearby, but the walkway above is just outside the front doors.  The best way to get to the ferry terminal is to simply take the bike up the steps, and walk it across.  I could ride a little bit on the other side. 

 Once I got to Kowloon, there was not an easy way to cross Salisbury, another very busy roadway.  I walked the bike again in the underground walkway to get across.  I should have just ridden Salisbury though up to Nathan Road.  Nathan is what I took most of the way up to my venue.  I was unfamiliar with the roads though, and the street signs were not always immediately visible.  Awareness has to be over 100% to ride in areas like this in Hong Kong.  You have to watch out for taxis, buses, cars, and pedstrians.  Also, for an American, it takes more energy to keep thinking opposite in your mind so that you look in the correct places for traffic movement.  I rode up to Waterloo, which was my destination street.  On the way home I was a little more comfortable, and could take my time more since I didn't have a set time to be back.  Instead of riding all the way down Nathan, I rode down Shanghai, which is a one way going back.  That cuts down a little bit on the traffic activity.  Shanghai ends at Austin, where I turned left to get to Nathan.  However, I was going to have to quickly turn right onto Nathan.  So, I stayed in the right most lane (remember they drive on the left here) to position myself better for the right turn I was going to have to make.  This meant I was right in the middle of traffic.  But I rode at the pace of the cars, and there were stop lights within fairly short distances, so this helped keep speed of other vehicles lower.  I successfully made the turn, and completed my trip back to the ferry by making another right turn onto Salisbury.  That was a very large intersection with alot going on, but it was very controlled with the stop lights, so no problem there. 

 Drivers in Hong Kong definitely are not looking out for people on bikes.  However, I tried to ride like I do back home, more in the middle of lanes, trying to be visible, and I communicated with drivers by hand signals and eye contact.  Those communications did help, and I did get some positive response from that.  With all of the busy cars and buses driving anxiously and kind of erratically, it does seem a bit crazy to get out there on a bike.  But I did it successfully, and probably will do it again.  Kowloon really is an excellent place for bikes.  There are lots of stoplights which actually helps to control traffic, and it is flat.  In fact, there already are alot of people riding bikes there, but they don't go very far, or ride very well.  If more people will ride them as vehicles, get out there in the lanes to be visible, and assert their place in the road, I think bicycling for transport will be more respected here.


Lim Soo 林蘇 said...

you are a hero

Matteo said...

Aww, shucks. Thanks!

Carmen said...

Dear Mr. Favero,

I'm the "crazy" Carmen who worked with you in the festival (hopefully you'll still remember me). Enjoy reading your cycling diary in Hong Kong (can't stop imaginating how you ride on a bicycle on the busy roads here). It's really nice to work with you. Hope that I'll see you around in the future.

warm regards,
Carmen :)